True, it's looking like we have less of a chance of making some noise in the playoffs this season, but making the playoffs in the first place is enough music to my ears.
To say that we are dead in the water as far as our playoff hopes are concerned, that's certainly not the case. We are in position to make the playoffs as the 8th seed, possibly making a push for the 7th seed. The Rockets are on our tail, just two games out, but this is not a team built simply around one player. We have enough talent to stave off the competition.
Tony Allen has done a fantastic job since the Gay injury. His defense has been spectacular, and offensively he's been great on the break. Allen has undoubtedly been our second most valuable player since the Gay injury.
In the playoffs, we matchup well against the Mavs, having taken 3 of 4 on the season, including a 104-103 victory over the Mavs in Dallas on March 6, without Gay. Our likely opponent, however, seems to be the Spurs, who we are 1-2 against on the season (we play San Antonio at home on Sunday). Our next three games might actually show how serious we are to be taken in the playoffs.
Anyone who thinks our playoff hopes rode on the shoulders of Gay returning might have been fooling themselves. The best case scenario for some time seemed to be getting Rudy Gay back in the lineup just in time for the playoffs -- not soon enough to where he'd determine our fate (i.e. will we get in?), one way or another.
Consider this: I don't trust Sam Young on defense as much as the next guy. I don't foresee Mike Conley miraculously learning how to play defense -- that's on him, not Rudy Gay. We still can't shoot threes, nor guard them. O.J. Mayo is still not the offensive threat we had come to know and love -- and he's shown that in the absence of Gay. Sane Battier can still play defense. Zach Randolph is still a 20-and-20 guy, who actually has shown to care more about defense over the past few weeks (just ask Tyler Hansbrough and Paul Millsap). Greivis Vasquez can't play defense, still. Darrell Arhtur is our most important player off the bench. We'll continue to lead the league in steals and be among the most efficient teams from the field, without Rudy Gay. I think you see where I'm going with this... What's changed this morning? Nothing.
Without Rudy Gay, we've had more than enough time to carve out our identity. This would have been a bigger blow if he had played over the last 15 games and we are just losing him now.
I'm optimistic, to a point. I'm sure we'll make the playoffs, I'm also confident in a matchup against the Mavs, if we can work our way into the 7th or 6th seed, we might be able to shake them. I'm also increasingly finding more confidence in playing against the Spurs, believe it or not, who are dealing with a Tim Duncan injury. (That might just be the fan in me, though.)
Hang in there Grizzlies fans, all is not lost. You'd be happy with a playoff berth and a competitive first-round series, no? That's how this season is shaping up. Realistically we're not built this season for a championship run, so let's bask in the idea that we are lined-up up to make the playoffs and go from there.
We have a lot to like, Grizzlies fans, despite a season-ending injury to our franchise player... wow, that gave me the shakes. I need to sit down. (Yes, I type while standing up!)